Cupid and Psyche at the Caffé Sol Y Mar
by José Iriarte
Psyche has given up and signaled for the check by the time Cupid pulls up on his red scooter. He runs his fingers through his hair, grimacing as he works the wind tangles out. She thinks she can remember running her own fingers through his blond locks, though after all these years it’s hard to tell the things she’s done from the ones she’s imagined doing or seen other women do.
He jogs up the steps from the road to the patio and joins Psyche at her table.
“Sorry,” he says. “It’s murder on the road. Nothing but tourists.”
He sits and orders a Peroni. Psyche sighs and asks for another verdicchio.
Once the waiter is gone, she asks, “Did you sign the papers?”
He shakes his head as he pulls a fat envelope out of his jacket. “This is crap, love.” He waves it in the air in front of her. “What court in the world has jurisdiction over us? How did you even convince somebody to draw this up?”
She’s not surprised he has decided to be difficult. “Your signature is binding with or without a court,” she says, gazing west across the congested highway to the gentle waves of the Mediterranean. “You know that. Anyway you weren’t even at our original wedding, so don’t talk to me about legitimacy.”
“Ancient history,” he says. “Why bring it up now?”
She meets his eyes. In them she can see his years like nowhere else on his body. “Our courtship doesn’t seem so romantic when I look back.”
“Our courtship inspired countless fairy tales.”
“Countless girls waiting for a charming prince to wake them with a kiss. Matching the labors of Hercules for nothing more than a man. A fickle man who demands trust but doesn’t give any. What a pity.”
“You weren’t complaining when you were in my palace, being waited on by my invisible servants, flying up and down the mountain on the west wind itself.”
She smiles faintly. “Actually, I was. You were not around much to notice.”
“You weren’t complaining when you ate the ambrosia that made you immortal.”
She shrugs. “I had already lost my parents and my sisters. What else did I have to lose?”
Their drinks arrive. He takes a long sip of his beer while she wets the rim of her wine glass. Down on the sidewalk, a pretty young tourist walking past his scooter squeals as a gust of wind from the west flips up her skirt. Cupid grins behind his bottle; Psyche rolls her eyes. This is what he is reduced to — puerile practical jokes.
Cupid puts his bottle down on the table and faces her. “What would you do?” he demands. “Become a secretary? A professor of classical studies? A stage mom?”
She shakes her head slowly. “I don’t know. That’s what troubles me. What am I, besides half of us? Even I’m not sure.”
“Your curiosity was always your downfall.”
“I think my curiosity might be my strength.”
He drops the envelope onto the table and leans back in his chair, his arms folded. “Well I’m not signing,” he says. “Do what you want, but don’t expect me to play along.”
“Would you force me to stay in a loveless marriage?” She takes a sip of her wine, and holds it in her mouth a long time before swallowing.
“I’m not in the habit of letting women walk out of my life. This isn’t an easy thing you’re asking.”
“I went to the underworld for you. What’s signing a few papers?”
She purses her lip. A change in strategy is what she needs.
“Come on, Cupid. You’re better than some shame-filled skulk. Sign this and you’ll be free of me. Then when you chase after some pretty young mortal and she asks if you’re married, you won’t need to lie.”
He pulls the papers from the envelope and flips through them. “A provision against arrows? Seriously?”
She arches an eyebrow. “A woman can’t be too careful.”
He grunts. “Fine,” he says, taking a pen from his pocket. “You want out? Have fun. You’ll change your mind when you realize every man on the planet is a child, compared to you.”
He signs with a flourish.
“Just remember, when you’re alone in the doldrums, that you wanted this.”
He drops the papers on the table, where they are immediately consumed by green flames.
Psyche feels a familiar breeze caress her hair. She glances at the flames on the table and they snuff out without leaving a mark.
“I won’t ever be stuck in the doldrums,” she says. “Didn’t you read what you just signed?” She stands and tosses her pack over her shoulder. “The west wind comes with me.”